100 Refutations: Introduction

A Manifesto

I’m in Colombia, sitting in my grandmother’s living room beneath a statue of a Virgin digging her heel into the neck of a wide-mouthed snake, when I hear it. “Pues,” a voice from the kitchen radio says, “Los ha llamado países de mierda.” Later I will hear voices from U.S. radio stations debate whether it was shit hole or shit house, but in the moment the voices make no distinction. “Shit countries,” they say, and then they begin to list the countries that may or may not qualify. “Well,” one voice states, “We also fall into that category, no?” El Salvador? Absolutely. Haiti? Yes. Venezuela? “It wasn’t mentioned but…” they are pretty sure it counts. Mexico? “Very likely.” And Colombia? “By that logic…and all of Africa, too. Of course.”

Of course.

“By that logic…”

As I stand up I feel myself clench my fists and grit my teeth. I have hot coals in the pit of my stomach, and I chip my teeth and burn my lips spitting sparks.

Because I know what it’s like growing up in a country people tell you is shit, thinking, By that logic…by that logic…what am I, what are we, what are you? Because I remember hearing some variation of this sentence so many times as a child I once asked my mother, “Are we born bad, mamá? Or does it happen later?” And I keep imagining children on this side of that sentence, and on the other side too. By that logic…. Thinking, What are we? Thinking, What are they? A mouth full of ash, a belly full of burning coals—grief that makes my limbs heavy, turns my heart into Sisyphean stone.

Above me there is an antique Virgin with a face worn down to faint, pious shadows. She digs her heel into the nape of a snake’s neck while balancing on an upturned crescent moon like the edge of a broken scythe, and I yell at the speaker until my teeth chatter and my voice trembles.

I yell until my throat hurts and I have to wipe my eyes with my sleeve, and my mother comes over and tries to talk me down. “Lina,” she keeps repeating, “calm down, calm down.” Above me the snake is frozen mid-scream, wide-mouthed and dragon-scaled. “Lina,” my mother says, “What are you going to do about it? Calm down.” Throwaway, meaningless, “Calm down. What could you even do? What could you even say?” Because my mother worries about me, my mother is afraid for me. “Mecha corta,” she calls me. Little short fuse. “Calm down.”

Back in the U.S., the television flashes the name of a país de mierda and shows images of men with neck tattoos being led in and out of courtrooms and countries. Another name flashes, and the television shows a bloated-belly kid running barefoot after a pale cameraman in cargo shorts.

“Calm down, Lina. Calm down.”

Ignorant and innocent, or murderous and monstrous, and nothing in between.

“That’s us,” I tell her, “Nothing in between, right? Países de mierda.” Artless and artful in countries without art, in dirt castles, in cities of manure, in oceans of piss. “Is that us? Is that it?”

“Calm down Lina, calm down.” Little short fuse, I rest my elbows on my knees, my face in my hands, while a barefoot Virgin balances on the razor edge of an upturned crescent moon and thrusts her heel deep into the base of a snake’s skull.

“What are you going do about it?” She asks me. “Calm down,” she pleads. “What could you even say to something like that?”

Lina M. Ferreira C.-V.

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To help more directly, please visit:

Hispanic Federation: http://hispanicfederation.org

Hope for Haiti: https://hopeforhaiti.com

Salvadoran American Humanitarian Foundation: https://www.sahf.org

Bios

Lina M. Ferreira C.-V.

*

Lina M. Ferreira C.-V.

Lina M. Ferreira C.-V. (100 Refutations translator and editor) earned MFAs in creative nonfiction writing and literary translation from The University of Iowa. She is the author of Drown Sever Sing from Anomalous Press and Don’t Come Back from Mad River Books, as well as editor, with Sarah Viren, of the forthcoming anthology Essaying the Americas. Her fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and translation work has been featured in journals including Bellingham ReviewChicago ReviewFourth GenreBrevityPoets & Writers, and The Sunday Rumpus, among others. She won Best of the Net and Iron Horse Review’s Discovered Voices Award, has been nominated for two Pushcart Prizes, and is a Rona Jaffe fellow. She moved from Colombia to China to Columbus, Ohio to Richmond, Virginia, where she works as an assistant professor for Virginia Commonwealth University. *********************************************************************************************** Amanda Dambrink (100 Refutations co-editor) works as an editor for the University of Wisconsin's Continuing Education, Outreach & E-Learning program in Madison, Wisconsin. She also holds an MA in creative nonfiction from Ohio University, and her previous work has appeared in Prairie Margins and The Normal School, among others.

Copyright (c) Lina M. Ferreira C.-V., 2018.